Mamas, don't let your sons grow up to be helpless cowboys, buy them a chicken plucker!
Caution: This site is filled with naked birds and happy faces
Your own son can look like this after hanging out with Dad just one Saturday a month.
Don't hesitate to contact Herrick by e-mail: email@example.com
“Where’s David?” Rory asked Janie.
“Oh, he and Byron left for the ponds a few hours ago. They should be coming back soon, their stomachs are probably growling. Are you hungry, Doc?”
He was just telling her no when he heard the truck drive up the dirt road, with a yapping dog in the back.
“Oh, here they come now. That’s Ruff. I’ll get lunch warmed up.”
David pulled in the side drive and parked his truck next to the outdoor kitchen.
Janie came out with a brown bottle of beer for David and a gin and tonic for Byron.
“Doc’s getting married next week, David.”
“Oh, we thought you had an emergency this morning, you never showed up.” Byron looked peeved at him.
“Katie came home last night with a big plan. We’re getting married sooner than I thought.”
“Next weekend,” Janie chirped in.
Byron and David exchanged worried glances. “What happened Doc, is she pregnant?”
“No, it isn’t that. Katie doesn’t want to wait anymore. I guess she’s tired of being single.”
“Is she serious? Is she cleaning the place up?”
Rory looked at them quizzically. “Sort of, she told me I was a slob.”
“That’s it, he's already married, dude!” Byron nudged David like this was all a conspiracy. “Where are you getting married?”
“I don't know, Byron. Katie mentioned San Luis City Hall, but now Janie wants it here.”
“Who’s your best man?”
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead. Do you want to be my best man?”
“I don’t know. We need to talk to David. That’s a significant duty for a person; maybe you’ll need two best men.”
Rory looked over at David and saw he wasn't there anymore. “Where did David go?”
“To my chicken plucker assembly area. He's going to boil up some water in the kitchen to soften the fat under the skin. It makes my plucker work better.”
“Tell me about this chicken plucker, Byron.”
“Well, you know, we like hunting and shooting the birds, but plucking all the feathers off of them sucks.”
“A lot,” David returned, chuckling and nodding his head. “The water’s heatin’ up, we need to bring those birds in.”
“I'll get my tools. David, did you bring the supplies?”
“Yeah back in the kitchen. We can work in there so long as you don’t mess it up. Janie doesn’t take kindly to messes. Especially now, with all this wedding fuss coming up. Here Doc, can you bring these ducks inside?”
Rory and David each carried four ducks inside, setting them on the counter for their follicular softening immersion.
“This one is the old chicken plucker. I had David buy more stuff to make a better design because this will probably break soon, see this crack on the cap?” He showed Rory his worry. The thing was a homemade contraption made of a white PVC cap with slits cut in the side with rubber appendages coming out of the slits. At the corner of one of the slits, he pointed to a crack spreading almost through half the top of the cap. Rory nodded.
“We're not going to use a jigsaw on this one, just the drill, so there will be round holes on the sides instead of square corners. These old slits were widened with a jig saw blade, and this sharp inside corner edge caused a tension leading to this crack, I’m certain of it.”
“How many rubber things are there?”
“Oh I see, you just push rubber fingers through the slits,”
Byron grabbed the brown paper bag David brought. He pulled out each item, one by one, including a very in-depth explanation.
“All you need is a four-inch PVC cap and five, fifteen-inch, rubber bungee cords. You can buy them anywhere, but you have to remove the S-hooks from them. Then you need six pieces of hardware; a 3/8 inch threaded metal rod about a foot long, and two nuts, washers, and lock washers to hold it all together. We mount this rod on a drill which rotates the fingers, and they whack off the feathers.”
“Sounds like a pain in the neck.”
”It’s easier than plucking them by hand, dude. What till you see it in action, and it’s easy to build. The first thing we’re going to do is cut these bungee cords in half to make the little rubber plucker fingers.” He stretched sideways, pulled his knife from his belt, which was mostly covered by his round stomach, flicked the blade open, and cut the bungee in half.
“That’s how we make the rubber plucker fingers Doc. Be sure you use a sharp knife, and don’t cut your fingers in half, just the rubber. Now when the fingers are ready, we have to make slits on the PCV cap. I drill two holes side by side, really close together, then angle the bit a little to open a channeled slit with the drill. Here’s what we did wrong last time, we jig-sawed these slits, but square corners are a weak point.”
“You just said that.”
“Because it's vital.”
“You need to go outside to do that.” David reminded him. “I don’t want Janie to castrate me. Oh, stay here Doc; the water temperature is about ready. I’m shooting for 150 degrees.”
“I’m surprised you don’t have to wait for boiling.”
“No it’s different than cooking Easter eggs, Doc, we just need to soften the feather follicles, not harden an egg.”
“See here; it's already at one-forty-eight.” He pulled a thermometer out of the water to show him. “Some think that’s perfect, but you’ve just got to experiment. Ready?”
Rory nodded and watched David. “Hold your bird by the feet and dunk it down into the hot water. Make sure you dunk the critter in far enough to wet the smallest feathers on the bottom of the legs, just above the feet.”
“For how long?”
“Just about three seconds, but be sure to jiggle it like this, that moves the air bubbles away, pushes the hot water to the base of the feathers. Then you pull out, count three more seconds, and repeat.”
“How many times?”
“Until a feather pulls out quickly. Just pick a large wing or tail feather, and pull it. When the feather slides out with no resistance, it tells you the bird is scalded to perfection. Chances are you will need to dunk it more than two times, maybe even four times, or six times, or more. There is no magic number, just keep it up until it's easy to pull the feathers. Then just set the bird in the sink to wait for Byron's plucker.”
“Ok, let’s try out it out, ready?”
“Yep. I’ve got a heavy-duty drill set up at the end of the house. It’s the only place I can do it without getting in trouble. Otherwise, feathers will fly all over.”
Rory followed the inventors to the far end of the house where David had attached a drill to a pallet with metal straps and screws. He needed a place to run the wheel steadily, and such a tie down freed his hands to rotate the bird against the twirling rubber fingers. Rory thought it was pretty smart. They made it a single man operation, an inventive idea which could prove highly marketable. Plus, David had an inside scoop on resource allotment. He worked at a plumbing wholesaler and could get four-inch PVC caps cheap, sometimes for free depending on who was in the warehouse.
The goofballs finally got the drum twirling, and they were ecstatic and beyond proud. “These twirling rubber fingers make de-feathering a breeze compared to the old days. I think we can sell each plucker for twenty-four dollars. It’ll save people a whole lot of time and boredom.”
“Twenty-four ninety-nine sounds better, Byron,” David decided.
Rory watched as the rotating fingers did indeed throw themselves at the carcass, discarding feathers all over the place. The heavier ones dropped to the ground, but a lot of them floated off. That’s why this operation was at the remote end of the house.
“Doesn’t it bruise the meat?” Rory asked.
“No, bruising only happens when the blood is circulating. These are dead birds, and the meat doesn't change. As you can see, even the skin isn’t torn open if you pay attention.”
Although a labor saving item, it still took the plucker twenty minutes a bird, and with the inventing and constructing stage over with, thoughts turned back to Rory and Katie’s nuptials.
Byron began the advice dispensation. “One day you are going to be driving home from the bar at two in the morning, having missed dinner and never called home. Despite still being drunk, you turn off the lights and the engine and roll silently into the driveway. But no matter how softly you tiptoe up the door and how quietly you enter the house, Katie will come running down the stairs screaming like a banshee demanding answers. You don’t want that to happen, do you?”
“Here’s what you do. Instead of trying to sneak in, rev the engine loud, come screaming down the street and with the squeal of tires and brakes, pull into the driveway. Then stomp up the stairs and throw the front door open, so it slams into the wall and yell up the stairs, "Honey I'm home, and I'm ready for some good luvin'! I guarantee she will pretend to be fast asleep.”
Rory decided right then this was going to be a great week!
Colusa Crawdad Festival
Chicken Plucker, Chapter 22